The museum is located in downtown Baie-Saint-Paul, in the heart of the cultural quarter which is renowned for its numerous art galleries and the monuments dedicated to the artists who have made it famous. The museum is built on the site formerly occupied by a cinema, Le Laurentien, which was also the theatre for other artistic presentations. During the post-war period, the movie theatre provided the stage for regional productions and for Québec itinerant theatre companies. Olivier Guimond and the boulevard theatre troupes brought a measure of relief from the burdens of everyday life.
In the mid-eighties, the Corporation du Centre d’art, which had already aroused the interest of the visual arts community, launched a local fund-raising drive. The campaign raised $ 100,000. The money served to accomplish a grand design: the building of a national exhibition centre dedicated to artistic and cultural activities in the Charlevoix region. Under the guidance of its founder, Mrs. Françoise Labbé, and with the support of various government agencies, a new building was built on the site of Le Laurentien cinema which had become timeworn beyond renovation. The exhibition Centre was inaugurated in front of a large crowd, on June 24, 1992.
Designed by Pierre Thibault, winner of a first prize in architecture in Québec, the Museum itself represents a work of art. Its elegant facade echoes classical proportions that are arranged in skillfully modulated rhythms. The church across the street appears to enter the building through huge glass panes. One must absolutely visit the Museum to appreciate the dimensions of the rooms, particularly the one named after its founder. Its total volume is the same as that of the original movie theatre. A small salute to the past.
To this day, the Museum has showcased great exhibitions. It is worth recalling the visit by Riopelle and his famous canoe hanging from the ceiling which was seen in 1998 by thousands of visitors. The International Contemporary Art Symposium has contributed an exceptional collection which evokes the past presence of more than 400 artists from all over the world. The Corporation du Centre d’art has contributed a valuable patrimonial collection. Famous names are represented that are part of the history of painting in Québec: Georges D. Pepper, Kathleen Daly, René Richard, the Bolduc sisters and many more.
On June 13, 2008, Mrs. Christine Saint-Pierre, Ministre de la Culture, des Communications et de la Condition féminine du Québec, announced the decision to recognize as a museum. In the announcement, the Minister praised the quality of the work of the Centre’s teams as well as the quality of the various exhibitions. A page of Baie-Saint-Paul’s history was being turned.